Designing for Archivability

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Web archives are a great way to reference or recover deprecated site content. You can help to ensure that old versions of your website will be faithfully preserved by designing for archivability.

A brief self-introduction

Regular visitors to the Stanford Web Services Blog likely won't recognize my byline; I am the Web Archiving Service Manager for Stanford University Libraries and pleased to join up as a new guest contributor on web archiving topics. My inaugural post concerns archivability, a design best practice to help ensure that the ever-changing web has a memory, as well.

What is archivability?

John Bickar has previously blogged on creating a static copy of a website. Archiving a website likewise entails creating a static copy but includes the capture of additional context that facilitates long-term preservation and re-presentation in a replay interface like Wayback. An archivable website facilitates content copying or archiving, particularly by crawler-based approaches, and a high degree of fidelity between the user experiences of the archived and original content.

What are the benefits of an archivable website?

Caryl Westerberg has previously blogged on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine as a resource for previous site versions. The Stanford University Archives also collects select Stanford University websites and will ultimately make those available via a Wayback instance hosted by Stanford University Libraries. Designing for archivability helps such efforts to provide you with your own deprecated site content when you need it. A more archivable website also tends to be more performant and accessible to search engine crawlers, improving usability and discoverability.

How can I make my website more archivable?

Many of the site optimizations that you would otherwise implement for performance or search engine optimization will improve archivability. For more specific recommendations, tools, and examples, Stanford University Libraries has recently published comprehensive web archivability documentation on its website.

Feedback or questions?

While I'm especially interested in working with campus webmasters on improving the archivability of the domain, I welcome any feedback or questions in support of web archivability generally. Please get in touch through this contact form.

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